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Creating E-Learning Material to Teach Essential Vocabulary for Young EFL Learners

Kiyomi CHUJO1, Chikako NISHIGAKI 2

1 Nihon University, 5-1-14-1401 Hongo, Bunkyo-ku, Tokyo, Japan chujo@cit.nihon-u.ac.jp

2 Chiba University, 1-33 Yayoi-cho, Inage-ku, Chiba, Japan gaki@faculty.chiba-u.jp

Abstract

Increasingly, larger numbers of young learners in Japanese primary schools are learning English. This expansion of Teaching English to Young Learners (TEYL) marks a major change that will affect secondary level teaching. To both address the gap in missing daily vocabulary currently observed in Japanese school textbooks and to provide primary school English teachers with an important core vocabulary, the authors created a list of the 600 everyday words most relevant to students’ daily lives. The vocabulary selection procedure is outlined in this paper, as well as the initial stages in the development of an effective and enjoyable e- learning program for teaching this vocabulary to Japanese primary school children.

Keywords: vocabulary, e-learning, TEYL, EFL, ELT, primary education, everyday words

1 Introduction

In 2002, the Japanese Ministry of Education, Science and Culture’s Course of Study guidelines included a provision, called International Understanding Education, to expand English classes into the elementary curriculum. As a result, increasing numbers of primary students are starting to learn English and this expansion of Teaching English to Young Learners (TEYL) necessitates deserves careful consideration not only of the young learners, their teachers and the material used, but the impact that these lessons will have on secondary level learning. Generally, most primary school teachers have neither the experience nor the background skills necessary for teaching English, and they need effective teaching tools that will be both successful and motivating so that these early language-learning experiences not only support TEYL but will become a basis for learning at the secondary level and beyond.

The importance of vocabulary in language learning is well documented (Schmitt & McCarthy, 1997; Read, 2000; Nation, 2001; Honig, 2001; Hayashi, 2002). It has also been shown that textbooks used in Japanese junior and senior high schools lack sufficient daily-life vocabulary (Horiuchi, 1976;

Inoue, 1985; Hamano, 1989). Furthermore, theoretical and empirical research in EFL suggests that teaching essential, everyday words to elementary-aged children can be highly beneficial for EFL learners (see Kuno, 1999; Ito, 2000; Saku, 2004; Shirahata, 2004). Creating an everyday word-based learning program for primary students would not only provide beneficial vocabulary to primary students, but would fill the gap in the upper grades and provide essential core vocabulary as a basis for learning English from a young age. The purpose of this study has been to determine, with methods based on corpus linguistic research, the vocabulary that is most relevant to the young child’s everyday world and to develop a prototype of an e-learning program which will provide teachers with a means to teach important vocabulary in an effective, enjoyable and rewarding way. The purpose of this interim report is to describe the procedure used in selecting the vocabulary for this TEYL material and to provide an overview of the on-going development of the e-learning program.

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2 Review of the Literature

2.1 The Necessity of Complementing Everyday Words

As mentioned in the Introduction, researchers have pointed out that everyday words are not sufficiently covered in Japanese English textbooks taught in junior and senior high schools, and it is this vocabulary that is considered to be the core vocabulary of college students and college graduates (Horiuchi, 1976; Inoue, 1985: Hamano, 1989). This lack is often felt by teachers and students who go abroad for a short stay in native speakers’ homes to experience daily life in English-speaking countries (Inaoka et al, 1988; Kubono et al, 1989) and the gap seems particularly evident in Japan since EFL textbooks in other countries such as Germany, France and Russia do include this type of vocabulary (Hon’ma, 1984; Mouri, 2004). Chujo et al. (1994) documented this vocabulary gap in a study which compared the vocabulary coverage of both Japanese and American textbook vocabulary over eighteen specific language activities. Hasegawa and Chujo (2004) investigated a series of three Japanese textbooks used in each of the past three decades and found that while there have been improvements in each ten-year revision, there was still a lack of everyday words necessary for survival in English.

Finally, Jin’nai (2003) reported that educators in secondary schools are expecting TEYL to provide the everyday vocabulary currently not taught in Japanese secondary schools.

2.2 Vocabulary Sources: Picture Dictionaries and Loanwords

Many researchers agree that picture dictionaries are vital resources for everyday words (Inoue, 1985;

Shiina et al., 1988; Matsumura, 2004). The photos and illustrations are an invaluable resource for helping students, teachers, and researchers quickly attach meaning to new terms. Picture dictionaries differ in the vocabulary and age group they target. Some address specific goals, for example: Just Look’n Learn English Picture Dictionary (Hochstatter, 1996) features ‘the most basic words in the English language’; The First Word Study Dictionary (Turton, 2001) targets ‘the essential words found in Year One teaching materials’; The Basic Oxford Picture Dictionary (Gramer, 2003) provides

‘language that is essential for the development of the beginning learner’s survival skills’; and The Sesame Street Dictionary (Hayward, 2004) emphasizes ‘words that appear frequently in beginning reading books and in a young child’s everyday world’.

Some picture dictionaries are designed for young adults and adults who are learning English as a foreign language and they contain ‘vocabulary that is most relevant to the everyday experience of adult and young adult learners’ (The Basic Oxford Picture Dictionary, 2003), and cover subjects ranging from everyday life to specific interests such as computers, jobs, sports, etc. (Longman Photo Dictionary American English, 2003). Others are designed for various age level learners ranging from age three to adult. For example, they will help ‘youngsters under five years old’ (The Reader’s Digest My World A First Picture Encyclopedia, 2002), ‘primary-age children’ (Smile Picture Dictionary, 1999), ‘from age three to age eight’ (The Sesame Street Dictionary, 2004), ‘children aged five years upwards’ (Oxford First Dictionary, 2002), ‘beginning English learners’ (Just Look’n Learn English Picture Dictionary, 1996), ‘low-beginning adult and young adult students, including literacy-level learners’ (The Basic Oxford Picture Dictionary, 2003), and ‘adult learners of English’ (Longman Photo Dictionary American English, 2003).

Because of the range in targeted ages, it is important to ensure that any vocabulary selected meets the targeted grade level. For this purpose, The Living Word Vocabulary (Dale & O’Rourke, 1981) is useful for determining the grade level at which the central meaning of a word can be readily understood. This word list includes more than 44,000 items and each presents a percentage score on those words or terms familiar to students in grade levels 4, 6, 8, 10, 12, 13, and 16. Also Basic Elementary Reading Vocabularies (Harris & Jacobson, 1972) is useful for determining the grade levels of reading vocabulary ranging from pre-primer to the sixth grade.

In addition to using picture dictionaries as a resource, the Japanese language contains a large collection of loanwords from English, called Katakana English, which can also be useful in language acquisition. While these loanwords have been adopted into the Japanese language system, most of the original sounds, grammar, and meaning have been changed (Brown & Williams, 1985; Ando, 1997a,b).

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Simple examples of these are “purin” and “konkuri”, which are direct transcriptions of the English pronunciations of “pudding” and “concrete”, and “mansion (manshon)” and “escape (esukeepu)”, whose meanings have been changed respectively from “a large beautiful house” to “apartment house or condominium” and from “to get away from something bad” to “to cut class”. Quite a few foreign words are reported to be found in elementary school children’s vocabulary (Yoshimura, 2003), and are found to contribute to building Japanese college students’ awareness or greater familiarity with English words (Brown & Williams, 1985; Oosaki, 2004; Yabuuchi, 2004). Because of their prevalence in Japanese, in a teaching context it is important that (1) students are made aware of the English pronunciation of the word, and (2) that students are also aware of the cognates of loanwords which can easily help them learn additional, similar words (Yoshida, 1978), for example, appointment (“apo”), mistake (“misu”), and roller coaster (“jetto kousutaa: jet coaster”). Thus when used effectively, loanwords can aid students in vocabulary development.

2.3 Vocabulary Selection Criteria

There are two ways to select specialized or technical vocabulary from databases: ‘frequency and range’, or statistical application. The more conventional method of using ‘frequency’ (reasonable frequency of occurrence) and ‘range’ (encompassing a wide range) as discussed by Nation (2001) was used to create an ESP vocabulary list by Chujo & Nishigaki (2003) and Chujo & Genung (2003) and was shown to be effective.

Based on Nation’s suggestion that “one way of making a technical vocabulary is to compare the frequency of words in a specialized text with their frequency in a general corpus” (2001:18), Chujo &

Utiyama (2004) and Utiyama et al. (2004) proposed using multiple statistical measures for comparing these two kinds of frequencies and for extracting various levels of specialized lists. Such measures include ‘log-likelihood ratio’ or LLR (Dunning, 1993), and ‘mutual information’ or MI scores (Church

& Hanks, 1989). They suggested that LLR, for example, identifies appropriate level words for intermediate-level or sub-technical vocabulary, and MI for upper-intermediate-level or technical vocabulary. Currently, LLR and MI are the two most commonly used statistical measures in the field of corpus linguistics.

2.4 Learning Vocabulary

It is clear that vocabulary is an essential component to language learning, and we have the means to create specialized vocabulary lists for specific purposes. But once we have a list of words, how best are they learned? One concern in the presentation of specialized vocabulary is that many vocabulary- teaching methods are considered boring (Krashen, 1989). One notable exception is the CALL-based vocabulary teaching material developed by Takefuta (1999), which teaches new words in twelve steps.

Her material incorporates a combination of a variety of exercises that promotes effective learning and long-term retention, and at the same time keeps its tasks enjoyable. Taking advantage of the possibilities inherent in computer assisted language learning, the authors incorporated a variety of exercises such as those used by Takefuta (1999), as well as original vocabulary teaching methods previously published (Chujo, 2002; Chujo, et al, 2002; Chujo, et al, 2003; Chujo, et al, 2004;

Nishigaki, et al, 2004a; Nishigaki, et al, 2004b) in order to create a prototype software for this project.

Building on these established parameters allows us to better verify the efficacy of this study.

2.5 Summary

From a review of the literature, we understand that (1) there is a lack of important everyday vocabulary taught in Japanese junior and senior high schools; (2) Japanese secondary level educators expect that TEYL education at the elementary level will address this lack; (3) this vocabulary exists in readily available picture dictionaries, many of which are geared to young learners, and in katakana loanwords from English; (4) to date there have been no known studies which have used objective or statistical means to extract or create a vocabulary of everyday words; (5) two methodologies exists for creating this kind of vocabulary list; (6) resources exist for grading vocabulary; (7) existing CALL

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programs may serve as a basis for creating an effective and enjoyable way to learn vocabulary; and (8) currently there are no known effective, inexpensive and easy to use e-learning material for TEYL vocabulary development.

3 Creating Everyday Vocabulary

Twenty picture dictionaries for both native speaking children and ESL or EFL learners published by major overseas publishers in the U.S., England, Australia, Singapore and Hong Kong and which contain more than 750 words were collected. They are listed in the Appendix. They were analysed according to the following procedure:

1) The words contained in each dictionary were manually typed or scanned onto a master list, and proofread twice. Twenty dictionaries provided twenty master lists. In total, 22,781 words were collected.

2) Next, each word list was lemmatized, i.e. inflectional forms such as cat-cats and go-goes-went- gone-going were listed under the base word forms of cat and go, and proper nouns such as January, Sunday, Christmas, and French [fry] and numerals such as two, ten, and seventy-five were excluded from each list manually. (For the justification on why this is necessary, and for more information on creating specialized vocabulary through statistical analysis, please see Chujo, 2004.) This process resulted in a total of 4,742 different words. The largest list, Word by Word (Molinsky & Bliss, 1995) was made up of 2,564 words and the smallest list, Ladybird Picture Dictionary (Taylor, 2004), was composed of 614 words.

In picture dictionaries, each individual word is presented with a picture, usually without a context or sentence. An analysis of picture dictionary data therefore would not (and did not) produce a normal frequency list as would be obtained from an analysis of text data. Because of this, the criteria of

‘frequency of occurrence’ often used in studies or multiple statistical measures were not applicable.

Instead, ‘range’ was used as the criteria for selecting words. Thus, the next step in the process was:

3) All twenty lists were compared for overlap to determine range. Words that appeared in all 20 dictionaries were referred to as ‘range 20’, and from the total 4,742 words, there were 40 in this category. ‘Range 19’ contained 49 words, ‘range 18’ had 82 words, ‘range 17’ included 63 words, ‘range 16’ had 78 words, and ‘range 15’ contained 80 words. Range 19 and 20 words are shown below. All vocabulary words appearing in ‘range 10’ to ‘range 20’ totalled 801. The 4,742 words were now refined further to these 801.

Range 19 Range 20

While English classes for students in grades 1-3 exist in Japanese schools, the targeted learner levels for this project are the fourth, fifth and sixth grades. Since there are expectations that the vocabulary taught at the primary level will augment vocabulary taught in junior high school, validating the overlap and connection to junior high school vocabulary is more easily accomplished if upper elementary grades are targeted first.

4) As this is an interim report to describe the development of this on-going project, please note that the steps from this point are currently in progress. In order to select the most appropriate words for the targeted age level children from the above 801 words, the Dale and O’Rourke (1981) and Harris and Jacobson (1972) data will be used to check the grade level of each word.

apple chicken hand orange

arm clean head paper

baby cup hot pencil

bed dog ice shirt

book dress leg skirt

boot egg milk sock

bus finger money table

car fish mouth toe

chair flower neck tooth

cheese foot nose triangle

brother bread night school star sister butterfly newspaper shoe tree

bag cat ship telephone knee

ball elephant banana television rain

clock sheep bear water cake

fork door cream mouse glass

knife shop ear train grass

paint window eye circle sad

toy house hair ruler park

umbrella chest sandwich square

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Any vocabulary word exceeding a fourth, fifth or sixth grade level will be excluded, but words graded below the fourth grade will be kept.

5) Finally, to aid retention, related words will be organized into twenty category groups with headings such as ‘At School’ ‘On the Move’ or ‘On the Farm,’ and full-color photos showing the objects represented by these words to make them easier to remember will be prepared.

Only five words will be chosen for each grouping at each grade level (4th, 5th, and 6th), and accordingly the total number of words will be reduced to 600. The inclusion or exclusion process of words at this point has not been determined, although to work within the parameters of the groupings (five in each category at each grade level), it will be necessary to eliminate some words. Further developments (see Section 5) will include an analysis for cultural influences and children’s spoken data. It may be that either or both of these analyses will determine the factors for final word selection.

4 Creating E- Learning Software

E-learning material is being developed to aid Japanese elementary school teachers who do not have an English teaching certificate and but will be teaching English in their classes under current government guidelines. In many cases, those teachers are not confident either with their English ability or with their English teaching skills. This material is therefore being specifically designed for this particular setting, and is accordingly geared to group instruction rather than individual study. What follows is a description of a prototype. The program is currently under development.

4.1 Frame Work for Learning

The instructional framework used in the e-learning material to teach the selected 600 target words is outlined in Table 1. It is designed to integrate theories of learning, developmental psychology, information processing, second language acquisition, and EFL education to ensure the comprehension and long-term retention of target words. The major principles considered in developing Japanese TEYL material were (1) to learn the target words in an appropriate classroom instructional process, which is presentation, practice and performance, (2) to create an appropriate setting in which the target

words are presented in context and not in isolation, (3) to give all instructions in simple and short English sentences with a way to make it understandable in context, (4) to have learners apply their knowledge of katakana English, i.e. Japanese words borrowed from English along with the Japanese sound system such as ‘rajio’ for ‘radio’, (5) to present the target words with its correct spelling, (6) to build a firm link between the pronunciation of a target word and its meaning, and (7) to expose learners to the target words repeatedly.

4.2 Stages and Steps for Learning

In the program, learners study target words through three

‘Stages’, i.e. ‘presentation’, ‘practice’ and ‘performance’

as is shown in Table 1. Stage 1 aims to present the target words; Stage 2, to practice to construct and consolidate sound chains between pronunciation and its meaning; and Stage 3, to confirm if they comprehend the target words and can use them.

4.2.1 Stage 1 Figure 1 Categories Table 1 Learning Stages and Steps STAGE 1 Presentation

Step 1 Choose a Word Category to Learn Step 2 Overview Target Words

STAGE 2 Practice

Step 3 Combine Pronunciation and Meaning Step 4 Consolidate Comprehension

STAGE 3 Performance Step 5 Listen and Comprehend Step 6 Use Target Words

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As is also described in Table 1, the three stages consist of two different types of activities called ‘Steps’. In the first step, learners first select a category (Figure 1). Then they are introduced to five target words (Step 2). As is shown in Figures 2, learners look at untagged photos of the target words, for example, a collage of photos seen here. In Step 2, they obtain an overview of the objects they are going to learn, and expectations to know and learn them are awakened.

4.2.2 Stage 2 Figure 2 Photos of the Target Words In Step 3 learners hear the sound of each word within a dialogue by clicking of the photo they see.

They will hear ‘What’s this? - It’s a train.’ with its full photo. In this step, learners build sound connections between the target object and its pronunciation. It is notable that the target word is introduced within a dialogue, not in isolation. Furthermore, the spelling of the target word is also presented with the target object. Currently, government guidelines discourage exposing students to letters and spellings. Many researchers and teachers, however, believe a certain amount of exposure to alphabets and spelling meets learners’ interests in knowing a language.

In Step 4, they see different ambiguous photos in different positions from the previous steps. When they click a photo, they can see a full photo of the target word and hear the simple conversation

‘What’s this? It’s a train’ again. In this step, students can strengthen and consolidate the links between the target object and its pronunciation.

4.2.3 Stage 3

In Step 5, learners view untagged photos of the same target objects, and they hear a dialogue ‘What’s this? – It’s a train.’ They must now choose the correct object which matches the conversation they heard. This step allows learners to check their comprehension of the words they have learned in the previous steps. In Step 6, students hear a question ‘What’s this?’ A target object appears in the screen for a second and then disappears. After they see the photo, they are supposed to answer ‘It’s a train.’

When they click the button at the bottom of the screen, they see the object for a second again and hear the model conversation ‘What’s this? - It’s a train’. At this step, learners have a chance to speak the target word. If they want to hear the question and answer it again, they can click a ‘try again’ button.

The variety of the ‘question and answer’ pattern used in the activities are fundamental combinations such as ‘What do you see? - I see…?’ ‘What do you like? – I like…’ ‘What do you want? – I want…’ ‘What do you have – I have…’ etc. Generally, most students have learned these set phrases in class; therefore they can review and consolidate these expressions. They can also expand their knowledge of expressions using the new words they learn.

5 Further Developments for this Project This project will be expanded as follows:

1) Ten additional picture dictionaries published in Japan will be compared with the twenty picture dictionaries used in this study in order to determine what cultural influences might exist. For example, Australian or British picture dictionaries may not include “chopsticks” or

“sushi” as everyday vocabulary words, whereas this would be useful word in a Japanese context.

2) The specialized spoken vocabulary of children will be compared with the vocabulary list created in this study from the picture dictionaries. This will be done by using a combination of various statistical measures such as log-likelihood ratio and mutual information from the following four children’s spoken data sources:

a) CHILDES (Child Language Data Exchange System) b) COLT (The Bergen Corpus of London Teenager Language)

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c) PoW (The Polytechnic of Wales Corpus)

d) Moe, et al (Vocabulary of First-Grade Children, 1982)

The extracted specialized vocabulary from the corpora will be used to further refine the 600- word base, and a new method to integrate the criteria of ‘range’ and other statistical measures will be developed to create the most optimal lists of everyday words to incorporate the previously extracted picture dictionary words, katakana English words, spoken data and culturally appropriate words from Step 1 above.

3) In addition to grading vocabulary with native-speaker word familiarity data such as Dale and O’Rourke (1981) and Harris and Jacobson (1972), grading will also be compared to Japanese secondary textbook vocabulary, and Japanese loanword lists from English.

4) Finally, the words in this study have been classified into categories by grade-appropriate concepts such as animals, foods, school, nature, and the home environment. These categories will be revised for a second edition of the e-learning program.

6 Conclusion

In this study, 600 words were carefully selected from twenty picture dictionaries using an objective method in order to create a list of everyday vocabulary which can be used by teachers of English in Japanese elementary schools, and which forms the basis of a software program targeted for that setting.

This prototype e-learning material can be modified to fit learners’ interests, needs, language level, and developmental stages and can be modified to meet the needs and demands of classroom teachers within the framework of Japanese public education system.

Send us your final electronic version (as a Word file) by e-mail.

Acknowledgements

This research is a part of a project funded by a Grant-in-aid for Scientific Research (C/2) (No.

16520331) from the Japan Society for the Promotion of Science and Ministry of Education, Science, Sports and Culture. We thank Dr. Masao Utiyama, National Institute of Information and Communications Technology, for his technical support in selecting vocabulary. We are also grateful to Hiromi Iwadate, an MA candidate with the Graduate School of Chiba University, and Atsushi Yamazaki, an MA candidate with the Graduate School of Nihon University, for their data analysis assistance.

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Appendix List of Picture Dictionaries

No Title Author Publisher Country Year

1 The Longman Picture Dictionary American English Ashworth, J. & Clark, J. Pearson Education Ltd. Harlow, Essex, England 1993

2 Smile Picture Dictionary Barraclough, C. Macmillan Heinemann Oxford, UK 1999

3 Longman Children’s Picture Dictionary Graham, C. Longman Asia ELT Quarry Bay, Hong Kong 2003

4 The Basic Oxford Picture Dictionary (2nd ed.) Margot, G. F. Oxford University Press New York, US 2003 5 The Oxford Picture Dictionary for the Content Areas Kauffman, D. & Apple, G. Oxford University Press New York, US 2000

6 The Oxford Picture Dictionary for Kids Keyes, R. J. Oxford University Press New York, US 1998

7 Scholastic First Dictionary Levey, S. J. Scholastic Inc. New York, US 1998

8 Word by Word Primary phonics picture dictionary Molinsky, J. S. & Bliss, B. Pearson Education Ltd. White Plains, NY 2000 9 Word by Word Molinsky, J. S. & Bliss, B. Prentice Hall Regents Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey, US 1995

10 Longman Photo Dictionary of American English Summers, D. et al. Longman Harlow, Essex, England 2003

11 First Word Study Dictionary Turton, N. Learners Publishing Pte Ltd. Singapore, Godown 2001

12 My World A First Picture Encyclopedia Picthall, C. & Gunzi, C. Reader’s Digest Children's Publishing Inc.Pleasantville, NY 2002

13 The Sesame Street Dictionary Hayward, L. Random House New York, US 2004

14 My Big Word Book Priddy, R. et al. Priddy Bicknell New York, US 2002

15 Picture Dictionary Taylor, G. Ladybird Books Ltd. London, UK 2004

16 First Picture Dictionary Oliver, A. Hinkler Books Dingley, Victoria, Australia 2003

17 Just Look'n Learn ENGLISH Picture Dictionary Hochstatter, D. Passport Books Lincolnwood, IL, US 1996

18 Disney My First 1000 words Feldman, T. Disney Press New York, US 2003

19 Disney Picture Dictionary Feldman, T. & Benjamin, A. Disney Press New York, US 2003

20 Oxford First Dictionary Goldsmith, E. Oxford University Press Oxford, UK 2002

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